Spicy foods are a favorite choice for many people and spicy cocktails are just as popular. If you have a passion for all things hot and spicy, you will want to give this DIY garlic-habanero vodka a try.
This is not a vodka for the weaker palates of the world and it is very easy to burn it to an undrinkable state. Many bottles of vodka perished as I was developing this homemade infusion because the habanero pepper can quickly take over.
After much experimentation, I finally found success and you can adjust it from here to fit your own taste.
Try this infusion with tequila!
- Separate the garlic into cloves and remove the skins.
- Rinse the habanero pepper to remove any unwanted chemicals. Use the pepper whole or cut it in half, removing all seeds and most of the white flesh.
- Place the garlic and habanero pepper into a clean quart-sized mason jar. Wash your hands thoroughly after touching the pepper!
- Fill the jar with vodka.
- Secure the lid on the jar and shake well.
- Store the infusion in a cool, dark place for 3-5 hours. Taste it after three hours then every half-hour after that until you get the desired flavor.
- Strain the vodka through a fine mesh strainer, coffee filter or cheesecloth and into a separate container.
- Store as you would any other vodka.
Infusion Tip: A 1-quart jar will hold a 750ml bottle of vodka with extra room for the infusion ingredients. The mason jar with a wide mouth makes it easy to get the ingredients in and out. Keep the original liquor bottle to store your finished vodka and label it with the flavor.
Adjusting the Spice of the Vodka Infusion
In the scope of hot peppers cultivated today, the habanero is no longer the hottest though it is still very hot. It's important to keep the pepper's flavor in check or you will not be able to drink the finished vodka (no amount of tomato juice could save some of my experiments).
For this reason, I think it's important to consider these factors and options before tossing a pepper in your infusion...
- Use a whole pepper or remove the seeds and white flesh. The white flesh inside a chile pepper holds the most capsaicin, which is where the pepper gets most of its heat. When the flesh comes in contact with your vodka, it will become very hot very fast. To control the heat, I like to keep the pepper whole. If you do cut the pepper, be sure to remove all the seeds (they're difficult to strain) and most of that white membrane.
- Reduce the pepper infusion. Another trick for controlling the vodka's heat is to concentrate on the garlic flavor and reduce the infusion time on the pepper. You can do this two ways:
- Begin with both garlic and pepper and remove the pepper when the vodka is hot enough. Allow the garlic to continue infusing until you find the perfect balance of flavor.
- Begin with garlic alone and add the pepper once you get a nice garlic flavor. Taste the infusion every half hour (more often towards the end) until the spice is where you want it.
- Choose a milder pepper. This seems like an obvious solution, but it is worth mentioning. While I happen to enjoy the habanero, you may not want to start with that. Jalapeno peppers have a great flavor that pairs well with garlic and almost any chile pepper will make a good substitution.
Tip: I do not recommend using a chile pepper that is hotter than a habanero. Save those ghost peppers for food, this is a drink! Drinking spicy peppers is a different experience than eating them and too much heat really is too much. This is not your taco that has savory ingredients to absorb the heat!
How to Drink Your Spicy Vodka
A few words of caution: you may not want to drink this vodka straight as it can be rather intense. On the rocks is okay but caution should be taken with that as well.
However, if you are looking to make a great Bloody Mary (or similar savory cocktail), this is a perfect choice. You also don't need to worry about the hot sauce because the habanero takes care of the spice!